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Index card 021 - Tarkovski Sound Machine
The Obscene Bird of the Night by José Donoso

Donoso wrote the bird (as he refers to it in his diaries)over ten years, and the final writing caused him several nervous breakdowns that led him to the hospital, almost killing him. You can taste the anxiousness and desperation of Donoso’s brilliant mind in this labyrinthic masterpiece.

The novel can be divided into two parts: the one of La casa de la encarnación, an orphanage inhabited by old nuns and women, where Mudito (Little Mute) shares with us his twisted view of the world. And the part of La Rinconada, a world of contradictions, a sadic game of mirrors in which Donoso creates a new universe where time vanishes and reality bends.

The first time I read this book, I had nightmares for several nights. Like Donoso stopped writing to control his attacks, I had to stop reading to enjoy my sleep again. For years I admitted the book’s value but always with a big warning sign. After a decade, I reread it in my book club, and I have to say that even though it is as terrifying as I remembered, it’s also much better than I thought in my first reading. Some very celebrated 20th-century Latin-American novels, like One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Marquez or Where the Air is Clear by Carlos Fuentes, are minor works compared to The Obscene Bird of the Night.

The bird is a complex novel; I wouldn’t suggest it to a novice reader or someone unfamiliar with magical realism. It takes some time to get into Donoso’s bad dream, but you will struggle to get out once you get into it.

Please don’t say I didn’t warn you. Read at your own risk. 

︎︎ Read The Obscene Bird of the Night

A book can also exist as an autonomous and self-sufficient form, including perhaps a text that emphasizes that form, a text that is an organic part of that form: here begins the new art of making books. (Ulises Carrion)

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